Winds of the North Preview 1: Core Mechanism

Etter Slaget Pùe 5 Stiklestad, by Nils Bergslien. Painting exhibited in Hotel Vøringfoss in Eidfjord, Norway

Winds of the North is an upcoming solo Viking gamebook. It features sandbox gameplay with a mix of adventure and farm management. Each week, until open playtesting begins, I’ll be sharing a preview of the mechanics and features.

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For this first preview, it seemed appropriate that it focus on the central mechanism you’ll spend most of your time interacting with. Skill Tests!

Winds of the North has a straightforward but versatile approach to Skill Tests. All you need is a single 8-sided die, the game uses no other. But the die rolls aren’t pass/fail in style. Instead, you roll on charts that offer a range of results. This has multiple benefits.

Multiple Answer Tests

Harvesting Crops

In the above table, you can see a good example of the average chart for rolling tests. There is a small range for really poor results, but it doesn’t take much to avoid those. In essence, if you’re good at the skill, you’ll almost never fail (but many activities are modified by the weather, so nasty weather can hinder even skilled characters). It also means that small, incremental modifiers serve a purpose. A +1 might be all you need to reach the next tier of result and get a better outcome. In many games, a +1 in a pass/fail system will rarely, if ever, make a difference. But they can immediately be of use in this system as they can nudge you out of the range of bad results.

But not all charts are made equal. A chart can also be weighted to succeed or fail.

Weighted Charts

Ice-skating Competition

In the above chart for ice-skating, failing has a wider margin (1-4 instead of 1-2), the widest of all results in this example. Some charts might also have fewer results while others have more. I can basically decide, using the number of outcomes, to treat the D8 as if it had any number of sides. And the rewards can likewise be weighted, saving the best rewards for the top but trickling other rewards among lower results. A bad roll won’t necessarily leave you empty-handed (but still could).

To me, this system better replicates how a GM might interpret results in a role-playing game. In many games that try to create an RPG-like experience for a solitaire player, a pass/fail system is rigid in its interpretation; it’s all or nothing.

Why a D8?

So how’d I decide on a single 8-sided die? Well, a D6 is too small and doesn’t offer a wide enough range of results. I love D10s and have used them in other games (which you might see someday), but I felt that for the system I was making, it had too many results, as did 2D6. The benefit of 2D6 is that you have averages. The results create a bell curve centered on the 7. But for a chart-based system, I didn’t need a bell curve, it was going to be integrated right into the results of the chart. So a D8, by default, was the perfect choice. And by making charts go above 8, the best results are then saved for only the most skilled characters, not the luckiest.

Next Preview

Next time, we’ll take a look at the passage of time and how Seasons and Weather impact your character and your farm. See you then!

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